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Reflections on Devotions

28 Jan

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Last Sunday, I was asked to consider being a part of a panel discussion on Devotions.  Giving a little 3-4 minute presentation and being part of a Q&A session.   I prayed about it, and was not too surprised when it seemed that I was to leave my comfort zone and say yes.  It was an event at my local church.  Shouldn’t be intimidating…right?

Well, yes and no.  I wasn’t kidding when I said sharing my devotional life is outside my comfort zone.  I regularly have devotions.  Daily most often.  Some days more than once a day.  But then – BAM!   I said yes, and so this happened:   All week I have been struggling to be consistent and devoted to my devotions and Bible study time?   Now why do you suppose that is?   I can think of many possible answers.   But the one I encountered most often this past week is nicely summed up in the “Coffee with Jesus” at the top of this post.

I just wasn’t “feeling it.  Is is amazing to me that still after 50 years of spiritual journey, some times the rebel in my heart shows up again to take a stand.  Not as visible to others, but visible most certainly to God, and visible to me.  IF I am willing to show up and be honest with God and myself.

Some days this week, I “felt” like I was checking a box.  Yep, done with that reading.  But I didn’t “feel” it was doing any good.  But you know what?  God showed up.  And some of those days that I didn’t feel like my morning efforts were resulting in any meditation or reflection, or even explanation,  observation, application, and doing — Again, God showed up.  Later in the day, I would find myself recalling what I had read.  Encountering a situation where that scripture applied.  Thinking about one of the devotional questions for reflection.  It was amazing.  God still worked.  God was glorified.  In spite of me.  I shouldn’t be surprised by that, I know.  But I was.

Because it reminded of a very important truth. Devotions aren’t about me.  They are about God.  They are about being in a devoted relationship.  So, yeah, I looked up the meaning of devoted, devote, devotional.   (Geeky, I know).    Here is what I found:

DEVOTE — VERB.    Action.  Requires participation.  Also related to devoting, devoted.

1. To give up or appropriate to or concentrate on a particular pursuit, occupation, purpose, cause, etc.  TO devote one’s time to reading.   (Yes, this does describe one action I take in pursuit of my Lord.)

2. To appropriate by or as if by a vow; set apart or dedicate by solemn or formal act, consecrate.   (Yes, this does describe the set apart portion of my day, my week to consecrate my life to my Lord.  To seek His face, His will, His call upon my life.)

3. To commit to evil or destruction or doom.  ……

At this point I thought – Huh?  And then I remembered several Old Testament scriptures where the Hebrew people were told to “devote to destruction” certain plunder obtained in warfare.  The most common example being the false gods of their enemies.  Makes a bit more sense.  So I asked myself this – Are there things I encounter just walking in this world that “stick” to me – which I need to remove and devote to destruction.  Yes.  Some bad habits simply appear with seemingly no aid on my part.  How do I break those?  I devote them to destruction.  But I digress…..

Devotions.  My keys:  Continuity and Variety.   I continuously have a plan for reading.   My favorite is to use the Book of Common Prayer readings.  They always includes Psalms, a personal favorite, they include an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, and a portion of one of the four Gospels.   I love the balance it presents, and it helps me keep the big picture overview of God’s Word in mind.   And because it takes 3 church years (starting at Advent each year, A, B, C) it doesn’t repeat often.

I also continuously have other reading plans that I participate in or Bible studies that I follow.  Books for studying the Bible are wonderful guides.  Whether you go to a book-by=book of the Bible series, or a Topical study.  They can be very helpful and often have guided questions to aid in reflection and explaining Biblical passages.

For Variety, I use many small reading plans.  They are kind of what I call “treats” or “snack food”.   Most are little paragraph or two of someone elses reflections with often only a verse or two.  Some include a short prayer, some don’t.  Some are by famous historical Christian authors, some by contemporary Christian authors.  Some topical, some theological, some “random” readings.   These are like little shots of caffeine.  OK as far as they go, but it is not what I would call a meal.  The nourishment from these is a good place to start if you have not developed a daily habit of spending time with God.  It simply is the equivalent of baby-food, and I believe God wants us to grow up as we journey with Him.

What works for you?  What have you tried for devotional time?  What doesn’t work?  What are YOUR biggest obstacles?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments.

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Transition Part 6

19 Jan

Continue reading

Reflections on Transition Part 5

10 Jan

Ok.  Here it is.  The last option.  It is my favorite.  Of course that is because it is my own personal approach to transitions and setting up a plan for intentional growth.  Though each of the other options can and do work – I know, I’ve used them too – This method is my favorite.

OPTION FOUR:  It’s been developed over several decades of my life.  Yet, it is still a work in process.  For me, having used this pattern for several years, I will admit there is a fair amount of cross over from one step to another.   But to help you understand it, I’m going to go step by step in the posts about this method for transitioning and encouraging a plan for intentional spiritual growth.  My suspicion is that it always will be a work-in-process.

NOTE: Until now, I’ve never attempted to explain this method to anyone.  Straight skinny:  I take a primarily spiritual approach — TOP DOWNWhy?  Because when my vertical relationship with Almighty God is aligned, then my horizontal activities reflect it.  Living by Faith requires both efforts vertically toward growth and horizontally toward growth. When my spiritual life aligns with God’s plans for my life, then the other areas of my life and the growth goals in those areas seem easier to plan and a bit easier to achieve.  No, not always, but most of the time.

The efforts of my heart, mind, soul and strength all align with what I believe is in obedience to God and His Word.  Efforts and God go hand in hand.  Not to earn God’s love, for we can never ever do that.  It is free.  The gift of new life, made possible by Jesus’ death, inspires my efforts.  And it is not that God needs i my help, for He does not.  But it because He gives me the privilege to show Him my love by following closely after Him and focusing my life to be His disciple.

Growth efforts and God in my intentions (resolutions or goals) is to show my love for all He has done in my life.  My over-arching life goal is to be a Christian BEING, DOING, not a Christian sitting or coasting.
  When that day comes, I do not want to be luke-warm.  So everyday, every moment counts.  Every second, I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit and on fire for my Lord.

Am I 100% successful, every moment of every day?  No and No.  But to quote Lysa Terkheurst: the phrase is “imperfect progress”.   I love how she speaks of this, and the phrase resonates in my heart.   Progress is never perfect on this earth.  Making progress is never totally done. Imperfectly, taking our perfectionist tendencies away, that allows us to make progress.  Inch by inch.

We move forward, try to overcome weaknesses, then we slide back, yet hopefully persevere.  We get one area – we think – under control; then God shows us another area He wants to refine, reveal or enliven. Often returning to the same areas over and over in the course of a lifetime.  Until at last, we humbly admit, we are powerless over the predispositions – but that GOD can bring healing to each and every area of our lives.

To make valuable productive progress at all in life, it is my personal belief and experience, that one must continue to grow as a person in six key areas: forgiving, loving, giving,  self-control,  learning, and sharing what we have learned.  To make progress in any one of these areas, seems to require intentional focus and intentional efforts.  Most especially, growth in these areas requires obedience to God.  It is only through God’s intervention bringing His Spirit to bear in our lives we are able to consistently steadily move to increased forgiving, loving, giving, self-control, learning, and sharing what we have learned with our fellow humans on the journey.

Moving forward does not “just” happen.  Growth rarely just happens.  Even if we seek to bloom where we are planted, food, water, and sunshine are required.  We can only grow with God’s help.  With the power of the Holy Spirit in us, and allowing God to speak to us thru the Word, work with us as we are obedient to do all that He asks of us, and being flexible to move and act in God’s timing and strength, not our own.  This does not in any way remove our responsibilities.  In fact, it acknowledges and reinforces that without Him, we can do nothing.  Nothing of eternal value.  Sliding backward, or stalling out, on the other hand — well, that is the “normal” less-than-ideal human estate ever since the Cosmic Coup.

SO….. Have I begun efforts to tie down and document intentional resolved goal-setting and growth plans for 2017?   Yes.  The process for 2017 is well underway.  It is partially documented in squeaky notes, post-its, scribbles on napkins, prayer notes, margin Bible notes, and in the soft tissues of my heart and soul.   Am I done yet?  Not quite.  Yet, that is no excuse to not start moving in obedience to what has already been revealed for action and intentions for 2017.

THE BIG STEPS of OPTION FOUR:

  • First, start with Asking God to take His highlighter to show me a verse or verses for this year (2017) that will hold meaning and challenges for me all year-long.  My intention is always to percolate this verse or verses deep into my heart and life.  One way I do that is to set a goal to memorize the verse or section of scripture provided for the year.  Sometimes other verses pop into focus as the year progresses.
  • I post the verse(s) on my bathroom mirror.   I need the reminder – always.  My challenge is to not just read it, or even to “see” it, but to recall it all year-long in each day and within various circumstances as they present themselves. Since God knows all things, and knows me better than anyone on earth and ALWAYS wants what is best for me, what better place to go?  The only true God who sees both the end and the beginning simultaneously – is where I seek objective truth.  Said another way, God’s view of me is far more important than my own view of me.

STEP ONE RESULTS — 2017 — noticing a pattern in conjunction with WARRIOR.

  • 1 John 4: 9 and 10 “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that HE loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation of our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  Leading areas of application is Loving and Forgiving
  •  2 Timothy 1:7   “…for God gave us a Spirit not of fear, but of Power and Love and Self-Control.”  (Read starting at verse 1 and see this in context).  Area: Love and Giving
  • Deuteronomy 31:6  “Be strong and courageous, do onot be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you”  Learning – trust in particular.  *again, yes*
  • 2 Peter 1:5-8, 10   “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue and to virtue,  knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with community affection and affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ……Therefore, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities, you will never fail.”  Area of application:  Learning, Loving, Sharing, and dare I add self-control?

STEP TWO:

  • I pray for a word.  One single word that challenges growth.  A word which for 2017 all my sub-goals can wrap around.  A word which is representative, not just of who I am now, but who I want to be and who more importantly, GOD wants me to be in a year’s time. A word that will encourage and guide all my actions day-by-day.
  • A word that I may not even believe about myself now, but know that if God sent it, it will come true. This word is usually a verb, but not always.  For example, one year it was BELOVED.  That year this word walked through life with me in all it’s many events and flavors.  By the end of that year, it was clear to me that being Beloved by God is a special place to be.   Last year (2016) it was FORWARD.  What a challenge.
  • The word is also most often linked directly to one of God’s attributes.  If it is, in small measure in my life now, it will blossom and grow as the New Year unfolds.  I expect 2017 to be no exception in this area.
  • God always has, and I believe always will – this side of heaven – expand the meaning of the word He provides to add focus and stability to intentional growth.  Invariably, He also provides some growth directly from Him, for which I had no plans.  (Our God is good.)

STEP TWO RESULTS — 2017 —

  • The word is WARRIOR  
  • Attribute of God:  ???  Seeking this answer in prayer.
  • So far, I know that means at least prayer warrior. 
  • I am pondering if it also means warrior princess?
  • Is it to include warrior bride?
  • Does it mean defensive warrior, offensive warrior, warrior of holiness and justice?
  • YET – I can and have taken intentional action year-to-date to fulfill what I know now of how to apply that word toward growth.  More focus, more time, more resting, more listening, more intimacy in prayer with my Lord.

STEP THREE:

  • I pray about what activities and ministries which are on my calendar now.  Where am I committing my time, energy, talents, skills, and gifts?  Or maybe I’m not?  Was I in a fallow period last year?
  • I ask God to let me know (usually through his Word), but also thru affirmations from other Christian friends, or even other bloggers and books, and Spiritual Directors/Pastors, to help guide me.
  • I count on God to know if I want/need to continue these activities and commitments or if it is time to step down as a start a new chapter.  This requires sober-self-assessment.  This requires input from loved ones who are affected by my commitments.

STEP THREE RESULTS: 

  • I know I am to continue teaching our Ladies Daytime Small Group Bible Study
  • I know I am to continue with Care Calling ministry. 
  • I have been blessed to be a greeter at my church and shall continue.
  • I am trying to setup a weekly reunion group.
  • Partially complete – Prayers continue.  I believe there may still be an add and a subtract for sometime in 2017.  We’ll see how this unfolds as the year continues…….

Part of me likes to see things all laid out.  Part of me now realizes that rarely happens.  How do I balance the various roles in my life with the ministries I believe God has called me to do?  Can I reasonably participate in these and not neglect my other responsibilities?

Yep…this is my challenge.  When to move from prayer to action?  Now.   Wait for complete answer, or as in step one and two start with what has been provided and go day-by-day and step-by-step?

Next steps coming.   Drill into these concepts and not only articulate the skeleton, but flesh it out into step by step tangible items.  For now, we’ll pause here.

TAKE AWAY:  As the 2017 transition toward new intentions, resolutions, goals continues I ask God every year to increase my FAITH.  Lord,  help me BELIEVE where-ever You lead is the best place to be.  (Remember, “BELIEVE” is my favorite word)  I pray for God to deepen relationships with Jesus Christ.  I cry out for help to  fulfill my vows and hold a committed heart to relationships. The struggle is real. The challenge is real. The opportunity to grow in the knowledge and wisdom of our Lord: real, unlimited and priceless.

Until the next post…dwell on below.   Listen, meditate.  Take what may be useful to you.  For now, remember:   “Whatever is  true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.”  Phillippians 4:8

PS — This last music video is one of my favorite prayer and meditation accompaniments.  Just let God fill your heart and wash over you.  Soak in His presence, and let God speak to you.

 

 

Reflections on Transitions Part four

9 Jan

Hello again.  Is it too late to still save Happy New Year or Blessed New Year?   I don’t think it is.   Why?  Because I live by a simple principle.  It was taught to me long ago.  It is living grace.  The thought goes like this: “It’s never too late to start the day over“.  And unless your heart and God are involved – it is just words.

But with God involved, you know you can always confess, He will wipe the slate or day or week, or month, or year, or life clean.  And we have a way made for us to start over.   So, if you have been unable yet this year to put into action your good intentions toward your life and toward God, now is the time.

So here, I give you my next to last option to help you get re-started in 2017 if you need to do it.  I am still going to encourage you to write down the key thoughts of your intentions to transform.  This time, I’m going also to tell you (and me) to take them into your prayer closet or quiet space and pray fervently to the Lord for affirmation or changes to our plans for 2017.

This time, I’m going to suggest to us both, that we ALSO need to put them in open site to review and take action multiple times a day.  Just like that beautiful rose above must feed and drink water every day to avoid dying too soon, and to prevent it’s neck from being broken with failure to thrive – so too, we must drink daily from God’s Word in order for our good intentions to bear fruit.  So here comes OPTION 3….

OPTION THREE:  This is one of my favorites and yet, one which I find hard to employ.  Let me explain.  Are you familiar with mind-mapping?  If not, I ask you to do a little leg work, and Google it.  You will find plenty of examples, and possibly even a tutorial.   If you ARE familiar with mind-mapping, then in this option, one way you can use it is to start your mind-mapping by giving a major line or branch to each “area” or “role” in your life.

Examples include: work, play, spouse,parent of children, school-mom, church-member, personal development, education, etc.   It is good to sometimes include organizational goals, areas as branches that need growth – for example: volunteerism, helping others, etc.

This can be very helpful if this is how you live or see your life as individually different areas.  Realizing that all roles or areas of life connect to a single trunk.  Give the trunk a name.   If you are a homemaker, you may call the trunk of your mind-map CEO of …. Corp.   And be sure to include every major role included that is needed to help fulfill your responsibilities as a mother, wife, Christian, etc.      Using this technique can then lead to other questions to answer, and eventually to an action item, a time element, a “who, what, when, where, why” type of approach for each branch.   You can also simply call your branch LIFE.  I do.  I even include the roots underground that are ever so important to holding the tree in place, and providing the key nutrients of growth.   In past years for me I have included large roots such as church community, God’s Word, Acts of Kindness, Words of Love, and other love languages.  Above ground are the action items needed in response to these roots.  READ God’s Word daily.  R.E.A.D. God’s Word daily.

For me the challenge to this approach is not the mapping.  I enjoy the creativity of this aspect and often use it in combination with other options.  To me,  the challenge for using this option alone, is that I try to live with integrity — wholeness.

Not compartmentalization.  Meaning,  I see all roles and areas, and all of life,  as potentially sacred.  So by dividing by roles, or giving segregation a boost by putting labels into my life,  it has always seemed to me to be counter-intuitive for the way I chose to live my life.  Then again though, you may find it very helpful.I would simply encourage you to include a spiritual growth action in each and every area you identify in your mind-map.

TAKE WITH YOU: I want to give some other options for those of you who are regular New Year’s thinkers and give some guidance to those of you who have tried and failed in the past.  I also want to encourage some who have never tried to plan any intentional growth or movement in their own life to give it a try. If you intentionally try something new for 5 minutes a day, in about 28-45 days you will have established a new habit.

And that my friends is how growth happens.  In baby steps, tiny bits – every single day.
 Or nearly every day.  No, you may not see the growth in a single day or even a single week.  Sometimes we don’t see the growth over the course of a year.  Often hard work and endurance are needed to stay the course of intentional growth.   Often, it is others who see growth in us when we cannot see it in ourselves.  If that is true for you, allow it.  Let your friends and family tell you or ponder what has happened to you.

Above all, remember while it may seem that I’m saying growth is all about you.  The truth is – it is NOT.  It is all about God.  It is all about being a disciple.  It is all about a willing heart to learn and to obey, and become a disciple who makes disciples.  A strong mom who can help other younger moms.  A strong single women, who can help and guide other women.  A person with endurance who can withstand the storms of life, so that when others are in need, we can come along side and offer them support with God’s help.

Blessing upon you today.  May we be strengthened to carefully consider the time we are given in the times we are living.

 

Reflections on Transitions Part One

30 Dec

FIRST POSTED: The last week of 2016.   This will be a multiple posting blog series – Describing how we can chose to transition from 2016 to 2017.  Reflections on choices. Reflections on priorities.

It is the time of year many people reflect on the year winding down.  It is the time when many also look forward to a New Year.  I am no exception to that reflection process both backward (a bit) and forward (a lot).  I spend a lot of time in prayer, meditation, and mindfulness; pondering during the course of this month — IF I have not already done so in the last 60 days.  Some call it goal-setting.  Some call it “New Year’s Resolutions”.  Me?  I call it healthy intentional self assessment and growth.  Whatever you call it,  here is the first installment of Reflections in this series:

Review and Assessment is important

We can all learn important lessons from the past, if we live in the moment and then chose a regular time to review, assess, and document.  2016 was a difficult year.  I learned again, that each grief is unique as each love relationship is unique.  I learned that grief is the price you pay for loving.  Totally worth it, yet painful.  I learned how to find hope in the midst of a difficult time.  I learned what God provided as spiritual gifts and key steps to transition life from lukewarm to hot.

Goal setting is one method of transitioning from season to season, year to year, chapter to chapter in the various stages of our lives.  For me it results in:

  1. Separating what is truly important from what is a distraction or even irrelevant.
  2. Deciding what you want to achieve in your life.
  3. Assists in Motivating yourself.  Especially during transitional periods and trials.
  4. Can help build self-confidence — however, this is dependent upon the successful achievement of goals or resolutions.
  5. Goals can help anchor you in rough seas.  Much as a keel on a sailboat, knowing where you want to be when the storm ends is key to making it further along and safely to shore.

This week, many last-minute “Lucy’s”  also start making resolutions for the New Year.  Some leave it until either the last ten-minutes of the current year or the first day of the New Year.  For some, it is a whim.  For some it is the sheer pleasure of working under “pressure”, or as I call it “procrastination motivation”.

For some, it is apathy; a true lack of desire to change and grow.  The “I am what I am, accept me, or get out” people. And admittedly for some, taking time out of a very busy season to spend in reflection and prayer for the future seems just out-of-reach.  I heard on   the news that for 75%, resolutions are broken by Feb 15.  I think it is sooner, and it takes until mid-Feb for some folks to admit it.  I don’t make resolutions as such.

For a large majority of people resolutions sound something like this:  “Lose Weight”, “Start exercising”, “Be kinder”, “Give more”, “Be a better person”, etc.  I’ve both found and learned a variety of methods for setting New Year’s or New Chapter initiatives.  None of which suggest the clichés above are adequate for achieving growth and change.  These type of “goals” always fail – sometimes sooner, sometimes later.  Without a plan, it has been said one plans to fail.

Before we discuss the options, let’s look at what the dictionary definitions are for RESOLUTIONS and GOALS.

Resolution:  In this context, the most suitable definition appears to be “a resolve; a decision or determination to make a FIRM resolution to do something“.  And/or “the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.”  However, there are times I find the definition which follows the most enlightening for New Year’s resolutions:  “reduction to a simpler form; conversion”  Check our your Thesaurus for additional insights.

Goal:  “The result or achievement toward which effort is directed, aim, end.”  The dictionary includes many sports metaphors and phrases about “making or scoring a point”.  While I love watching sports, these explanations are useless for setting new-life-goals or New Year’s resolutions.  Therefore,  I find the following definition the most useful:  A New Year’s goal can be seen as “adapting ones life to achieve making a point, or working toward an objective of leaving a legacy”.

Just for fun I added the word:  Initiative: “an introductory act or step”, “Leading action to change life/lives”  This word could be seen easily in a setting of New Year’s resolutions, yet my personal favorite is this definition: “One’s personal responsible and reflective decision to act on one’s own initiative.”

For me — INITIATIVE is what I setup for each new year.  It is focused on actions and doing which over the course of the year will result in intentional growth.  The areas can be: Spirituality, Mind, Body, Professional, Educational, Relational, etc.

So….let’s do this.  Together.

 

 

 

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgiveness, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 5

29 Mar

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgiveness, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 5

BibleVerse_2Timoty2_11_13

This is the last in the series of 2015 Lenten reflections.  This is where I admit that growing in holiness to become the person God wants me to be is a challenge.  Is it a full time job?  It can be, it is best when it is.  Is it hard?  Often.  Do I consistently make living my beliefs – 100% of every day?  Not at all.  Consistently, yes.  100%, no.   [To see how I deal with that, Go back to Part 1 of this series]  Is it worth it?  Totally.

I’m human, there are times I question and doubt, I fear and I fail my Lord.  I’m so glad my God is big enough to handle my questions, and so gentle and loving that he doesn’t immediately strike me dead for daring to question Him.  If He wasn’t like that, He wouldn’t be much of a God now would He?   God does not EVER turn away any sincerely seeking humble soul.   God is always faithful, He loves me no matter what.

I cannot hide from his love, it infinitely surrounds me. God promises He will never leave me nor forsake me.  He promises that if we seek Him, we will find Him.  That perfect love and true promises are what keeps me seeking God.  After all, we are in a love relationship.  I want to meet with God.  I want to obey God and follow His desires.  I want to fulfill the highest potential He has planned for my life.  And in turn, God always wants what is best for me.  He can take the bad stuff that just happens to anyone walking on this earth and He turns it around for my good. (When I let Him).

In reflection this season, I am also reminded that we are called “to live at peace with everyone – so far as it depends upon us”.  (Romans 12:18)  Here too we are challenged to draw upon our faith in God – for to live in peace often times means setting aside our personal comforts – our fears and our prejudices.  We need to go outside our comfort zones to grow, leave the past behind in order to avoid harming others – all the while standing firm in our core faith.  Not because we are faithful, but because GOD is faithful.  Not because we are better or think we are better than anyone else – for we are not.  We are simply forgiven sinners, striving to live in love.

That – the “live at peace” verse – God really means that.  It includes some extraordinarily difficult choices and actions.  Things such as: not compromising truth, not looking the other way at evil, not being silence in the presence of wickedness, and not being prejudice.  Instead, we are called to help the weakest among us, to help those who cannot help themselves, and to put into action plans that honor and glorify God.  We are called to be the very hands and feet of Christ on this earth – in the now, in the here, in our spheres of influence.  We are called to be a visible presence of God’s Kingdom on earth through our lives, our actions, our choices, and if absolutely necessary – our words.   Sometimes, I am greatly saddened when I think that Christians are more often know for what they are “against” than for whom they stand for.  Personally, I think it is a fabulous prayer to ask God to be more visible in my life actions than in my words.  Personally, I think if we can season our lives with more love and acceptance for people and share what God has done for us, we would be a much more attractive people of God, than we oft times are now.

I believe that God has the best ability to convict of sin and convince in love.  I believe that God – through the Holy Spirit – points all hearts to Christ.  Everyone on this earth will make a choice before they die.   (Rom 14:7-10)

When asked about my faith or current issues, will I speak answers, give my position and offer my reasoning.  I can share my testimony of what God means to me and what He has done in the past, and what He is doing in my life now.  But I am not called to judge your life.

For me, at least, I think the cliche to “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” is trite.  I believe it is impossible to live out without hypocrisy.  Maybe someone else could do it, but not me.  When I love someone I love them.  I accept them where they are now, just as Christ accepted me where I was then and where I am now.  God accepts me fully – just as I am.  He requests only honesty from us, from me.  It doesn’t mean God will leave me there.  For He wants to see me grow in knowledge and grace.  Over time – that growth can include: changes in lifestyle, reading and mentoring in the Bible, the very Word of God.

Here is how it works for me:  unless a person has given me permission to help you see your blind-spots, and only when I know you very well indeed  – and vice versa – I have been given you permission to point out my blind spots – only then do I think that it is helpful to share areas where another person cannot or does not have the ability to see how you (or me) can improve.  Only then, do I think it is acceptable for others to point out areas where anyone needs improvement and growth.  Mutual accountability.  Mutual accountability means mutual love, guaranteed acceptance and forgiveness. *I do have one exception*

Living out my faith, or as James (Jesus brother said) – “working out my own salvation with fear and trembling…” can mean being in accountability relationships, in love sharing our lives with others, not to put down, criticize or critique, but to share honestly our lives and “bleeding edges” in confidentiality with one another.  It can, and hopeful also does,  include corporate as well as private worship time.  It can mean meditation and study in the Bible to learn what God expects from us and of us.

God nurtures us to “ever grow”.   Kind of like an “evergreen” in nature.  Some periods have greater growth, some have lessor growth.  Unless there is a draught or uprooting, there should be growth. We, (I’m including me too) should not be the same people today that we were a year ago.  Along that time, we would be growing, budding, blooming and becoming more like Christ.

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So how are we to show one another the love of Christ?  Jesus told His disciples flat out – rule #1 – LOVE ONE ANOTHER. How can we do that?  Live in alignment with God, and fulfill His purpose for our lives?  One method I have been a part of in the past was being within a prayer community for several years that encouraged small accountability groups of 3 to 5 people to meet every week and answer the following 3 questions:

1.  What have you done to nourish your relationship with Christ this week?  (One of the reasons I included the mp3 song above is because I use music in my private worship to nourish my relationship with God – I have not tried this before, but I believe if you click on the notes, the track will play for you to enjoy.)

2.  How have you studied to improve your knowledge of God and of His creation?  (Including your fellowman)

3.  What actions have you taken to share Christ in your spheres of influence?

Let me tell you, participating in those groups (3 over the course of 20 years), was one of the best tools I have honestly ever been introduced to as a method for encouraging personal spiritual growth.  What was said in the group meeting – stayed confidential between only the participants.   This time was growing, fun, and fantastic fellowship.  It was gaining a foothold in a tough place with friends to help you along the way if you fell.  It was great.  I hope to find new prayer partners to meet with regularly very soon.  (Pray with me if you will for this to happen soon)

We are commanded to seek out and spend time with others of same faith.  The purpose is to help our spiritual growth.  God doesn’t expect us to have all the answers and be a “Lone Ranger” Christian.  Trust me, we don’t have all the answers.  Again, if we did, I would think God is too small.  I trust him and have faith – even when I don’t understand all that is happening in my life or the lives of those I love.

Instead, we are encouraged to learn from one another and to keep each other accountable to hold onto integrity, to avoid hypocrisy.  The Bible says:  “steel sharpens steel”…Reflections on this truth, also keep me seeking God as part of a local community of believers.  It is in fellowship with like minded people that we can gain wisdom to have others help us see our own blind spots and to gain strength from each other as we seek to serve the Lord together.

This is part of the beauty of Easter.  Living a resurrection life.  Jesus appeared after His resurrection to over 500 of His disciples (The book of Acts).  Why do you think He did this?  I think He did it to encourage them to stay together, to stand firm, to keep the faith, and to help them realize His resurrection was a REAL HISTORICAL EVENT.  An event that continues to this day.  Now that, my friends, THAT, is worth celebrating.

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Please leave a comment if you want more information or have questions.  Thank you for reading.

Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

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